Public displays of affection: Empowering or awful? Both.
Public displays of affection, why some restraint is nice, and how different things would be if only I showed people the same level of affection I show food.
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I saw a couple of guys walking down the street holding hands today. That always makes me smile. In fact, I probably look a bit creepy, like bleeeergh gays, grinning weirdly at these two boys as they just go about their everyday lives. But I do it anyway, because it’s good to encourage this kind of thing. And it does my heart good to see it out in the wild and not just in spaces set aside for The Gays.
I’ve held hands with boys in public before, of course. Not often, but that’s mostly because I’ve rarely been with someone for long enough to get to the hand-holding stage. It’s quite a milestone.
Normally, I’m just like “Well, you’re very attractive, perhaps I could buy you several drinks and then kiss your face” and then when that actually happens, something inside my head just clicks and suddenly all the things I found cute and endearing in the “Getting to know you” phase suddenly start to REALLY get on my tits. And then I’m like “Oh. You again. What?” which I suppose isn’t what you want to hear when you’ve just woken up next to me.
Although, once at university, a Young Gentleman’s first words to me on waking up were “Oh. I thought you’d have gone by now” and then he rolled over and pretended to go back to sleep until I left. Which was awkward, because I thought he was joking until he just completely ignored me. He literally just laid there and played dead until I got up and got my clothes on. Which was a bit of a liberty, because he was one of those people who insisted on cuddling in his sleep. And not just putting his arm around me, but all four limbs, clamped onto me like a full-body version of a facehugger from Alien. And at least they had the good grace to let go once they’d shoved something down your throat and done their thing. I couldn’t have got him to let go without some kind of industrial equipment.
Anyway. Pffft. Where was I? Holding hands. Right.
And usually when I did hold someone’s hand, it wouldn’t be a full hand-hold. Mostly because I like having my hands free and not too warm or sweaty from other people. It would just be a linking of pinky fingers. Which I personally thought was adorable, but my ex thought was indicative of the fact that I was afraid of commitment. Which is only true because I was afraid of commitment with him, because he was super-codependent and I felt like I was being smothered.
Looking back, it was a lot more controversial to walk down the street holding hands with a boy at that time. I grew up in a pretty rough mining town in Yorkshire. There were always stories and people getting the snot kicked out of them for spilling someone’s drink, or that time someone get stabbed in a shopping centre because some nutbar thought he was looking at their bird. So for two funny-looking gay guys, one with long hair and eyeliner because I was going through my “fancying goths” phase to walk down the street holding hands could never be just an unconscious act of intimacy. By necessity, it had to be a conscious act of defiance. Sometimes I know that this is something that straight people an have trouble grasping, so if you’re listening to this and you’re not a queer, just take a moment to imagine what it’s like to be in a situation where every single time you want to show your beloved some affection in public, you have to deal with the fallout. It can be exhausting.
There would be Looks. There would be muttering. There would be the possibility of shouts of “Poof!” or whatever.
Once I remember holding hands with him in public and some young girls walking past us and going “Eeeeewww, benders!” and without missing a beat he turned, looked her up and down and went “eeeew, trash.” For me at the time, that response was pretty fucking awesome. I was like “wooooow!” and just SO into him after that. Not enough to keep going out with him, but still…
A friend of mine at university once told me that he never held a boy’s hand in public, in case someone hotter saw that he was in a relationship. Because that made it harder to get with the hotter guy.
I think about him sometimes. Mostly because that is the single worst reason to not show affection to someone you’re dating. If you’re into them, it shouldn’t matter what other people think. And if you’re not that into them, or you’re waiting for something better to come along, then you certainly shouldn’t be with them. Don’t be with someone just to kill time, or because there’s nothing better around at the moment - be with someone because you like them, and you want to be with them. “Anyone is better than no-one” isn’t a good philosophy. It’s not healthy for you, and it’s not respectful for them. Of course, I”ve gone pretty much the other way, where I’m “No-one unless it’s Jason Momoa or Olly Alexander” and neither of them have answered my DMs, so what do I know…
I think one of the reasons that it took me a long time to be ok with holding a boy’s hand in public - not that i happens much at the moment, but y’know, I’d be ok with it if it did. It’s more because I haven’t found someone that I want to hold hands with, rather than not wanting to hold hands at all. So many men are deeply mediocre… Anyway. One of the reasons it took me a long time to be ok with it was that part of me was always still waiting for the comments, or the shout, or that first punch.
So, yeah. I’m better when it comes to public displays of affection nowadays, I think. I don’t mind them. As long as it’s not too over the top. Like a kiss is fine. Holding hands is fine. But some shit is too much. Constant snogging is too much. And I don’t just mean that for queer couples. Either get a room and bang it out, or put ‘em down and remember you’re in public. And if you’re going to get a room, at least let me watch. I could hold the camera or something.
I went out for dinner once with someone I used to respect and his boyfriend, and part-way through the meal he leaned over and licked food off of his boyfriend’s face. No words, not passing a napkin polintedly, just shlup! Neither of them thought this was weird and they just carried on eating their dinners as if nothing weird had just happened. I was speechless. I wanted to kind of point out that that was a gross thing to do, and we were in public and stuff like that, but I just couldn’t find the words. After a couple of seconds, I just got up and left. Middle of dinner. Didn’t say anything. Just picked up my jacket, and went home.
He’s dead now. Well, he might not be. Haven’t bothered to check. He’s dead to me, and that’s the same thing, really.
Speaking of food, though, I was feeling fancy the other day so I took myself out for a Nando’s. That’s right. I don’t need no man to take me out - I can live my best life by myself, doing what I want. So, yeah, I was in Nando’s, inhaling a Fino Pitta with chips, and over the nyom nyom nyom noises I was making and spattering noise as droplets of peri-peri sauce rained down around me, I noticed two young guys, still teenagers, I think, who were obviously on a very early date. They were so into each other, and flirting and giggly. It was adorable! And as I watched them, I realised that they were compltely unaware of anyone else in the room. Just totally absorbed in each other and this early stage in the relationship. They were sharing a plate of chips and oooh hoo! Oh ho! Over the last few, and I realised that none of that would have been possible for me when I was their age. Partly because Nando’s hadn’t been invented then, and I don’t think going to a Macdonalds in the 90s would really have given off the same romantic vibe. Harsh overhead lighting and orange easy-wipe plastic tables don’t exactly scream a classy date… But the main reason that would never have happened with me as a teenager would have been because I don’t share food. I’d have been “get your own chips. Touch mine again and I’ll stab your hand with a fork.”
Yes, I am single actually.